Press Start: The best games of 2015
This year, I played and reviewed seven different games for Press Start. Those experiences leave me happy to report that 2015 was another year in a growing, annual trend of awesome video games. From huge role-playing experiences as found in “The Witcher 3” to the fast-paced action of “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” gamers the world over this year got to consistently experience some of the best entertainment available.
There were plenty of games I missed at launch, such as “Splatoon” for the Wii U, the arcade-y delight “Rocket League” and smaller titles such as “Life is Strange” and “Undertale.” But of the games that released this year that I did find time for, here are my favorites and why I liked them.
“Just Cause 3” provides the chaos and freedom I crave without letting things like story or realism get in the way of the fun. With an enormous sandbox to explore, a versatile wingsuit and advanced tethering features, “Just Cause 3” makes it more fun than ever to liberate a country. The shooting mechanics are average, but I was having too much fun wreaking havoc in my own way to really care.
5: “DYING LIGHT”
“Dying Light” takes everything about the subpar “Dead Island” series and enhances it, making for a fun, open-world zombie beat-'em-up. The best addition is the parkour mechanics that make it a blast to traverse two separate maps, hop over enemies or even slide and kick zombies' legs, breaking them. Melee weapons and even firearms can be found in the world, but the real fun comes from using your own inertia and mobility to take down hundreds of the undead.
“The Witcher 3” is the final entry in the series following the adventures of Geralt, and what a send-off it is. The third game provides the series' biggest world yet, full of side quests every bit as enticing as the main quest, which sees Geralt search for his adoptive daughter Ciri. That's what so great about “The Witcher 3”: The story is as riveting as a good fantasy novel.
The combat is fun, too, especially when Geralt goes on a hunt for some mystical beast. Using different oils and powers, Geralt must prepare for each “boss” battle in order to come out on top. The effort it takes to win certain encounters makes “The Witcher 3” that much more enticing.
Crystal Dynamics' reboot of the “Tomb Raider” series is proving to be a worthwhile effort. Many consider the second installment in the new series, “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” better than the first. I don't, but the game still is a ridiculously fun adventure complete with satisfying combat, a thrilling story and, of course, puzzling tombs to raid.
Almost every moment in the story of “Rise of the Tomb Raider” is packed with action sequences, giving the game great pacing as player character Lara Croft tries to clear her late father's name. In the brief lulls between missions, Lara has a plethora of places to explore and collectibles to find so there's never a dull moment. The story concludes with a cliffhanger that makes me excited for what's next in the series.
2: “FALLOUT 4”
The hype leading up to “Fallout 4's” release was tangible as fans eagerly awaited the next installment in a franchise that hadn't seen a new entry from its primary developer in seven long years. “Fallout 4” is ultimately another “Fallout 3” in a new setting with a new story with a few extra bells and whistles. It doesn't bring the landscape-changing pedigree “Fallout 3” did upon its release, but that's OK. “Fallout 4” still is a fantastic experience, even without some groundbreaking hook.
This post-apocalyptic role-playing game allows almost total freedom in a bomb-shelled Boston. Players can go where they want, talk to whom they want and kill what they want. Player character voice acting adds a deeper sense of immersion at the expense of detailed dialogue options. Companions have detailed back stories and conversation trees, making me want to spend time with each of them instead of brush them off and explore solo, as I normally do in Bethesda games.
“Fallout 4” allows for limitless armor, weapon and base customization, which is a fun distraction from the shooting. With no level cap, players can create exactly the kind of character they want. And better shooting mechanics keeps the combat tense and fun. “Fallout 4” will be rotating through my Xbox One for several months to come.
My game of the year isn't actually a standalone experience but an expansion to one of last year's most hyped-up games. “Destiny: The Taken King” completely revitalized the repetitive format of the first year of the game, breathing new life into an otherwise overall stale and static experience.
Bungie streamlined tasks to make the overall experience more user-friendly, which is one of the greatest things about the update. Bounties can now be turned in from anywhere. Vanguard and Crucible Marks have been combined into one currency. Leveling up weapons and gear is easier than ever.
Of course, the new content itself is refreshing. The story and characters of the expansion are actually interesting this time around. (Cayde, played by Nathan Fillion, makes the game about 100 percent better.) Though not the most exciting locale, the enormous Dreadnaught ship is a nice addition to the areas players can explore. And the raid is a glorious triumph in cooperative gaming that puts players' skills, patience and endurance to the ultimate test.
“The Taken King” might not be a new game, but it sure feels like one. I've poured hundreds of hours into it already, and I plan to spend hundreds more exploring, killing and looting with my friends. For that, it's earned its place as my game of the year.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing [email protected], leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.